The how and why of the Alice brand

Glass Magazine editors asked Beth Novitsky, senior associate of Brand Design at Gensler, the New York, N.Y., architectural firm that General Glass International hired to brand its new direct-to-glass printing capabilities, how the Brand Design division works. Gensler employs 2,500 architects, designers, planners and consultants in 31 offices around the world.

Glass Magazine: Describe the process you initiate with a client: the steps, questions, concerns.

Novitsky: It starts with a visioning session with the client to get an understanding of their objectives and to learn about their company, industry and competitors. After we absorb and process this information, we work on conceptual designs that meet their goals, on through design development and final production. It is a collaborative process from beginning to end.

GM: What internal processes do you engage in?

Novitsky: The design team and copywriter research and brainstorm an appropriate range of ideas. We can also draw from the knowledge and expertise of our many offices by conducting internal surveys to understand market perceptions and architectural and design needs. After careful vetting, we can also implement an internal test to get reactions, comments or recommendations.

GM: What was the branding goal?

Novitsky: Our goal was to bring awareness about the unique digital, direct-to-glass printing technology purchased by GGI that allows permanent printing on glass in multiple colors. It's the game-changer that differentiates GGI from their decorative glass competitors. We created a name and set a tone of voice that attracts the A&D community and brings awareness to the glazing community, followed by marketing materials and applications to reinforce the brand.

GM: Why Alice?

Novitsky: Amidst all the names, technical sounding ones were less appealing, and ones with a softer and emotive bent resonated more with the design team as well as with other members of the A&D community at Gensler. Alice stood out above the rest. It instantly connects to the world of glass. It comes from the main character from the story “Alice in Wonderland” who is transported to an imaginary world through the looking glass. The fantasy and imagination speaks to the creative process, and has a tone of whimsy and fun, not to mention memorability. It adds warmth and a personality to what would otherwise be a cold, clunky machine. The personification angle works well. The reference to a classic book goes further to reinforce the storytelling angle, which is GGI’s mantra: to help tell any customer’s story in glass.

Thinking long term, if GGI were ever to brand future products or services, they could embody other names to create a family of characters.

GM: Did everyone on the Gensler team agree? How about the GGI team? What were the objections, if any, and how did you overcome them?

Novitsky: Everyone on the Gensler team felt the strongest about Alice. There was an instant “that’s it” moment, a perfect fit. This proved to be the overwhelming consensus with internal testing. There was some concern that it was a little 'out there,' but since this is targeted at a design audience rather than installers/manufacturing that was seen as a good thing.

GM: What’s behind the brand color choices?

Novitsky: The cyan blue was the perfect choice for 3 reasons: 1) Glass is thought of as a transparent blue in the design community; 2) It’s a nod to printing, cyan being one in the CMYK process; 3) It connects with Alice’s blue dress. In general, cyan isn¹t too trendy or too corporate. Especially with the black, it looks and feels clean, fresh and inviting.

GM: What was the timeline on this branding project?

Novitsky: GGI wanted to have a spring launch for the American Institute of Architects show in late April, Neocon in June and GlassBuild America in late September.

GM: How do you expect architects, designers and specifiers to respond to Alice?

Novitsky: We feel the community will be intrigued by a unique name and look, unlike other products that sit on their library shelves. It will be easy to remember and recall. Also, once they realize the capabilities and customization offerings--all at a comparable if not cheaper cost than other methods--they will be awed like we were. Interest in Alice will also generate a deeper curiosity to learn more about GGI as a company, as a creative partner with many other products and services.

GM: How do you marry glass trades and architects in this brand position, or do you? Should the sell be the same or different?

Novitsky: Internal survey results showed that the A&D community responds more to visionary and aspirational sells. Glass trades seem more drawn to technical and utilitarian approaches. A careful balance without sacrificing quality or messaging can be achieved to cater to both groups.

GM: What are the top four things architects respond to in a new product?

Novitsky: Capabilities, cost, customization and dependability, especially among sales reps.